Update 8:30 a.m. 3/23/17: An AT&T spokesman indicated Wednesday’s grievance strike has been resolved and employees were scheduled to return to work Thursday.
CWA confirmed employees would be returning to work after an agreement between the union and the carrier was reached late Wednessday night.
“(AT&T) will no longer require technicians to perform work assignments outside of their expertise and classification. Workers will return to work with renewed strength and unified commitment to reach a fair agreement,” CWA said in a press release.
Around 17,000 AT&T customer service workers and technicians in California and Nevada walked off the job Wednesday after working for nearly a year without a contract.
The employees are on strike indefinitely and are currently picketing at AT&T call centers and offices throughout the two states, including in Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco.
The strike follows nearly a year of employees – part of AT&T’s wireline division – struggling through contract negotiations with the carrier. Their last agreement expired in April 2016.
The workers are represented by the Communications Workers of America union, which alleged the carrier changed work assignments for workers without bargaining and backtracked on an agreement to resolve the ensuing dispute over the changes. CWA said workers were being forced to take on work that is outside their areas of expertise. The union indicated it is filing an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board to protest the changes.
“We are on strike today because AT&T is hurting us all by violating their bargaining obligations with the union,” Robinson Paiz, a 17-year AT&T employee from Los Angeles, commented. “We don’t want to let our customers down, but AT&T left us with no other choice. AT&T needs to get serious and honor its contract with us so we can keep servicing our customers.”
An AT&T spokesman on Wednesday, though, said a walkout “is not in anybody’s best interest, and it’s unfortunate that the union chose to do that.” The spokesman indicated the carrier is “engaged in discussion with teh union to get the employees back to work as soon as possible,” but is prepared to continue serving customers in the meantime.
Additionally, the spokesman indicated the carrier is not proposing a reduction in wages for any employees as part of the contract negotiations and remains “committed to providing great benefits.”
The strike on the West Coast comes just a month after AT&T struck a temporary contract extension deal with 21,000 AT&T wireless retail, call center, and technical workers across 36 states. Like their western counterparts, those workers voted to authorize a strike if necessary should bargaining break down and the temporary arrangement be canceled. The contract for those workers expired on Feb. 11.
Though the strike has just begun, AT&T could have a problem on its hands if the conflict drags out for an extended period. Last year, nearly 40,000 Verizon workers in the Northeast walked out in a strike that lasted 49 days and was only resolved with help from then U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez. The seven-week strike impacted Verizon’s second quarter earnings, dragging down total operating revenue and earnings per share.